Posted on 2 July 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews, Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei

The Noitamina time-slot surely rocked beyond belief this season. Alongside Sarai-ya Goyou aired the possibly even better Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei, the latest product of Masaaki Yuasa of Kaiba-fame. This time, he went for a ton-of-dialogue artsy character-study slash college life series, in which we follow the lead character as he explores a wide variety of different clubs and lifestyles during his years in college throughout many parallel dimensions. And it works out wonderfully.

At first sight, the way in which this series keeps resetting itself after every episode may seem weird at first, but it actually was a brilliant method to flesh out its different characters. Because of its very frequent resets, this stands out even more than series that did similar things in the past, like Higurashi and Umineko. Because of this, we get to see a ton of different sides of the characters that would never have been able to been shown without these resets, and the most important part is that we see Watashi develop in many different ways throughout each episode. The different side-characters all have their own parts to play in Watashi (the lead character)’s world and everything comes together wonderfully in the final episodes.

All of this is accompanied by some truly excellent dialogue. This series is based on an actual novel, rather than a manga or light novel, and it really shows. The dialogue is incredibly fast and you really need to pay attention to keep up with it, but as a narration it offers very detailed descriptions of the situations that Watashi finds himself in, which is nearly always very imaginative in the ways that it does so, with quite a number of witty remarks.

One potential pitfall could have been for the series to lose itself in either its dialogue and visuals, but neither happens. There are a ton of details stuffed into this series in order to make all episodes stand out, but in the same way the main message and characters remain deceptively simple on the outside. In comparison, while Kuchuu Buranko felt a bit like a loose cannon at times, every moment of Yojou-han is instead meant to bring colour to the life in which Watashi is living, and build up for the episodes that are still to come. Because the huge amount of building up, the first half of this series is decidedly less impressive than the second half, but the build-up is definitely worth it.

It’s a series that doesn’t try to provoke the biggest emotional response, but as a character-study it really stands out as a minor masterpiece here, in the way that it very subtly manages to flesh out and characterize its entire cast. Especially after the final episodes, it stands out as my favourite show of the series that premiered during the past spring season.

Storytelling: 10/10 – Fresh, and varied, skillfully combining repetition with new ideas to flesh itself out. Top notch narration.
Characters: 9/10 – The formula really allows the characters to come alive and show many different sides of themselves.
Production-Values: 9/10 – It’s Masaaki Yuasa. Do I need to say anything more?
Setting: 9/10 – Spoilerific to go in detail here but yeah: this one rocks too.

Mind Game (another one of those movies that I’d review entirely different if I were to watch it today)
Revolutionary Girl Utena

Posted on with categories: Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei

Well, so here it finally is: the ending I’ve been looking forward to the most this season. And indeed: this really was the best ending of the season for me. It was a wonderful wrap up of all of the build-up that this series has done.

So in this episode, Watashi continues to wander through all of the parallel worlds of his own life that he’s been trapped in, but the big difference with the previous episode was that he finally starts piecing everything together in an attempt to get out of that maze in which he can only eat castella and fish burgers that are lying around.

Most of this episode actually was a summary of what happened in the previous episodes, but by finally thinking about them and piecing everything together, Watashi finally started to notice that Mochigumo that kept hanging above him. Like expected, that was indeed the opportunity that kept dangling in front of him. That part really was the only potential pitfall of this episode: many shows have failed with such a cheesy romantic conclusion, but the way in which Watashi finally realized that he developed a crush over Akashi was well portrayed, and subtle. In fact, his entire confession was wonderfully different from what you usually see. It wasn’t dramatic at all, and instead just felt very natural. Or as natural as you can get a guy to act, wearing nothing but a scarf and talking about disappearing underpants.

Instead, the dramatic climax was… about Oz. Watashi finally came to terms with Oz as a character, and accepted him for who he was. Interestingly, Oz’s facial expression also completely changed here. It shows even more that we see all of this from the perspective of Watashi, in which he’s this evil bastard and therefore also has this continuous grin on his face. the same goes for the fortune teller: she also looks totally different now.

Overall though, it’s awesome to see that Masaaki Yuasa is constantly trying to improve himself. The big weakness of Kaiba was its rushed ending, so here instead he comes with a perfectly planned out series across eleven episodes, in which the final episode is really meant to give closure to everything. Whether Yojou-han surpassed Kaiba… nah. The rest of Kaiba was just that good. Nevertheless, Yojou-han was a really well written character-study that has a good chance of becoming the most unique series of 2010.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 26 June 2010 with categories: Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei

This episode was brilliant, there’s no other way to it. it’s THE proof that this very much was a series that was building up to its conclusion right from the beginning, and now that everything is coming together, it has just surpassed itself. It’s without a doubt my favourite episode of Yojou-han so far. Really, out of all the endings this season, I’m looking forward to the final episode of this series the most.

So in this episode we were promised that finally Watashi would break through the tradition of joining random clubs and pushing reset buttons, but I’m very pleasantly surprised with how he actually did it. Instead of running after a whimsical dream, he just gives up. He spends god knows how long in his own room, and eventually he ends up trapped in a maze full of endless parallel worlds of this room.

I loved how the creators portrayed Watashi and his confusion as he tried to make sense of his situation. It’s interesting how he just doesn’t speak in this episode aside from just one line: all we hear are just some grunts and his inner monologues, which seemed to be wittier and more descriptive than ever here. Especially the scenes in which he just tried to waste time were priceless in how down to earth they were.

In the end, this indeed is a series about parallel worlds: worlds that can change depending on even the slightest decisions that you can make different. Even in the current world, there were aspects that returned in other worlds, like the Castella. Oh, and the cockroach trick “backfired” with some hilarious result. What’s also interesting is that Watashi usually hardly ever was at home. In all of the rooms that the Watashi of this episode crossed, he only came across himself once (also explaining why that weird man with a beard appeared: it wasn’t exactly an older version, just a version of Watashi who refused to shave).

It’s also interesting how Oz doesn’t seem to be the main bad guy of this series after all. This also could be expected after the previous episode, but it seems that Oz is just another characters in all of the universes that Watashi takes place in. This anime really is a journey of self-discovery for Watashi. The main concept wouldn’t be that different if Oz weren’t there, and the biggest difference is that Watashi didn’t have someone to put him down to earth by reminding him what an idiot he is.

Now, this really is a series that’s perfect for the short airtime of 11 episodes: it’s short but focused, and knows what it’s building up to. Those are often the most successful short series, compared to the ones that either just cut off, or try to do just too much in too little time. That will make for enjoyable series, but not the masterpieces like Yojou-han and Kaiba because it can never get really in-depth about its characters.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 19 June 2010 with categories: Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei

This was just awesome, the way in which everything came together in this episode, and there still are two episodes left for Yojou-han’s conclusion. This episode took events from all of the previous episodes and wove them masterfully into one.

Very different from usual, Watashi ended up being a bad guy here, rather than joining a regular club. It was some sort of evil society that was responsible for the rounding up of bikes in episode three. I think that this was the first time he really made Akashi angry here. In fact, we get confirmation that she’s still a member of the same clubs as she’s ever been in, and we get more and more a confirmation that every episode is the same, aside from which club Watashi decides to enter. The previous three episodes were special in the way that he wasn’t too involved in these clubs (an English club and reading club… yeah), which allowed him to explore love a bit more, instead of getting all caught up with these clubs here.

In all of these episodes, he met Akashi in different ways, because they pretty much were in the same campus, and she happened to live next to Ozu. Ozu on the meantime… I really begin to suspect that he was involved in everything here, from the tennis club to being Higuchi’s disciple to being the captain of the lucky cat Chinese restaurant. The reason he was involved in the cult in episode five was because his girlfriend was that raven-haired maiden that Watashi was chasing after back then; that’s why he crashed that airship. This episode finally revealed all of his motivations.

There was one big difference here though, that doesn’t really fit into the canon of the other episodes: Watashi did NOT find Akashi’s Mochiguman, but instead Ozu went after it. Could this be a hint that Watashi is getting further and further away from her, and that he’s just failing to notice what’s right in front of him? This episode does show that now that he finally found wealth and power he still feels like he’s missing something, which was pretty much the first time he acknowledged this.

Also, this episode did NOT feature a rewind. Instead we just have Watashi sulking in his room. I think that out of all the conclusions this season, Yojou-han is the one I’m looking forward to the most. There are just so many ways in which it can go, and I really feel like the creators have been carefully building up towards that ending.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 12 June 2010 with categories: Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei

What am amazing conclusion to the love triangle arc. Seriously, Sarai-ya Goyou has really gotten some serious competition for my favourite series of the season, I really love the way in which Masaaki Yuasa has been delivering this series so far. This episode was nearly again the exact same as the previous two, only with the focus on Keiko, Watashi’s pen-pal, and a different conclusion.

The past arc has been brilliant in making everything spiral out of control. It’s THE proof that repetition doesn’t need to be bad, provided that you use it well. There have been tons of series who did amazing things with it (Utena, Higurashi, Jigoku Shoujo and Umineko, and it’s very interesting to see Yojou-han joining them.

I think we all knew that Keiko was actually Oz, the moment he handed Watashi that magazine, in which he found Keiko’s address. Part of what made this episode so much fun though was the way in which he was so genuinely enamoured with her. The look on his face (and especially the dialogue that went on inside his head) at the moment he found out that he had been exchanging love letters with Oz was priceless.

Akaishi’s role in everything also turned out to be very interesting in the past arc. The big difference with the previous arcs is that Watashi actually did something nice for her, instead of ignoring her (that was probably the meaning of the promise-scene of the earlier episodes: it’s to show that the two actually fit each other quite well, but because Watashi is so incredibly dense he never made any advances on her and forgot about his promises to her). Also, she’s living next to Oz.

Seriously, now that prediction that Higuchi made back into that first episode gets a new dimension with this. Who knows how often they hooked up with each other while Watashi was messed up in his umpth weird idea? We’ve heard of Oz’s girlfriend before, but have we actually seen her once? And again: Johnny was no use in this episode, and Watashi again left her. But then again, he really was in love with the image of Keiko he created. That’s the really weird part here: his love for Hanuki felt a bit shallow. Instead however, he has been genuinely in love with two women who didn’t exist. In fact, Watashi is a guy who just keeps chasing after these abstracts that don’t really exist, instead of looking what’s right in front of him: something concrete that can make him happy. Johnny turned out to be the complete opposite of this: not looking far away, but instead just trying to go after what’s right in front of him.

I really wonder what those final episodes will be about: how will they put everything to a conclusion? This is Masaaki Yuasa. For the sake of spoilers I’ll be vague in this, but ‘certain’ series of his have had really… ‘interesting’ endings.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 4 June 2010 with categories: Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei

Awesome, this is exactly as I hoped: this show just continues to get better and better. Screw the repetition, every episode manages to add ten new things for everything it recaps. I was a bit fearful of the prospect of having an episode more similar to its predecessor than ever (who knows, perhaps it might even have pulled a “Seraphim Call”), but this episode very skillfully took the the previous episode, and built further upon it.

The overall scenario is pretty much the same as in the previous episode, it’s just the focus and ending are different. Instead we gloss over Hanuki and the pen pal, and instead this episode is about the love triangle around between Watashi, Jougasaki and the love doll. Oh, and Johnny. He has gotten way more extreme with this episode.

This episode really was masterfully written, not just how Watashi’s feelings kept spiralling out of control, but also that Jougasaki kept entrusting Kaori more and more to Watashi in a surprisingly similar way as how we’ve seen him in the second episode. On top of that there were also a ton of parallels with that proxy proxy war of episode four. Seriously, it felt like Ozu kept pestering him even without Watashi’s help. That could explain why he’s been so relatively absent in the past few episodes. It would be pretty awesome if he was some kind of ever-present prankster.

The next episode will be about the pen pal. the end of this episode even hinted at that. But what about episode 10 and 11? Especially Akashi had a really weird role in these episodes, as she was supposed to be the female love interest and instead Watashi has chosen three other girls to fall in love with. Will episode 10 actually be the same as these past two episodes, but on the perspective of Akashi?

It makes me think about the one oddball episode about this series: the one about Higuchi’s disciple. All of the other episodes were about portraying Watashi as some sort of socially awkward loser: the past two episodes were all about his desire to remain pure, and the other episodes really all stressed what a social dork he is. That episode was different, though. His life was miserable there not because of his own actions, but rather only because he ended up choosing the wrong club at the beginning of his university life. That proxy-proxy war was completely different from Watashi’s other struggles, not to mention that really weird scene in which Higuchi suddenly started riding a giant whale.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 28 May 2010 with categories: Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei

This episode finally introduces that strange cowboy we’ve been seeing in the OP. Guess what his name is? I really thought that it was some kind of Euphemism that Eden of the East came up with, but here we’ve got another show that comes up with that strange nickname.

In any case, this episode was just awesome, by far the best of Yojou-han yet. It was a masterfully written romance that felt incredibly refreshing when compared to all of the uninspired high school romances out there. It’s the episode that finally gets a close look at Hanuki, the dentist assistant. Watashi meanwhile is in the middle of a really weird love polygon in which he often hangs out with her after club activities (this time it’s the English Club, at which for once he doesn’t suck… or at least feel out of place at), exchanges letters with a mysterious girlfriend whose identity we never really learn and somehow ended up taking care of Jougasaki. Hanuki in the meantime also hangs out with Jougasaki and it’s heavily implied that Master is her boyfriend.

The reason this episode rocked so much was how well it got into Watashi’s head for this episode. Especially when the liquor popped up everything kept spiralling out of control masterfully. I’m not exactly a fan of Johnny’s voice actor, but nevertheless it shows what a genius Masaaki Yuawa is at portraying chaos.

Ozu this time was interesting again, in the way that he was very much out of the picture for the biggest part of this episode. He’s still causing trouble, but it’s affecting Watashi less and less: he actually got close to three girls other than Watashi here. Speaking of which: she never made an appearance at all. This was a very interesting episode of Watashi, experimenting with other women than what this series made out to be his “true love”; very refreshing.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 21 May 2010 with categories: Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei

It’s of course easy to immediately start comparing this show to Kaiba, however I opted not to do this for the first four episodes. Simply, because that would not be fair. Kaiba was a stellar series, and amongst my favourites. Expecting the same would just be unrealistic. The interesting thing about anime is that beforehand you almost never know which shows will turn out to be the best. Even more, Kaiba had a stellar first episode. Yojou-han instead was completely focused on building up. Kaiba sold me with its incredibly creative back-story and its gripping narrative. Yojou-han instead has its dialogue, repetition and wit. With a series as Durarara, you can see that it tried to look like Baccano at times, however Yojou-han makes no attempt at trying to catch in on Kaiba’s… um… popularity.

This show is weird: we’re still stuck in those random campus life stories. In this episode, Watashi ends up in a hippie-cult full of peace-loving flower-children that look a lot like scienology. It’s another story of how he completely throws away his first two years at college, just in an attempt to fit in. It’s actually very similar to the third episode in which he couldn’t fit into the cyclist club because he wasn’t athletic, here too he couldn’t fit into the softball club because he wasn’t one of those people who always look at the bright side of life. Here things got carried way more out of control though, because Ozu was surprisingly absent here. He for once only caused trouble that helped Watashi.

What’s also interesting is that Akashi still is Higuchi’s disciple. Her role seems to be all over the place, it seems. Sometimes she ends up joining the same club as Watashi, sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes she’s straight-up his love interest, but this episode has him chasing after someone completely different. I think a key is also that she’s a year younger than him, so by the time that she gets to join college he’s also completely involved in whatever stupid club he’s involved in. I think a major theme in this show has been the contrast between Watashi’s image of romance, between the types of girls that he’s actually interested in. Watashi ends up in such a huge mess every time because his expectations of college life are completely different, and instead of choosing a club that fits him he instead keeps choosing clubs that fits the romantic image that he has in his head. He just is an anti-social character, and I’m beginning to think that Ozu and Akashi always end up with him because they too aren’t fond of socializing and doing regular college stuff.

I also labelled Watashi as a loser once, but that also doesn’t quite turn out to be the truth. He can be quite successful when he wants to: he can train and become very muscular, he can make a lot of money through jobs, he can put together an entire movie on his own. It’s not like he’s not good at anything, he just doesn’t use his energy at the right places and instead wastes it on stupid stuff that only make his life miserable.

In any case, what I’m trying to say here is that Yojou-han episodes have this weird effect. Especially this one. Overall this episode was enjoyable, though nothing special when you get past the styles. There were a number of interesting jokes, plus the critique at scientology also had its moments, but it’s nothing that I would label amongst Giant Killing and Sarai-ya Goyou as my favourite of this season. However the final few minutes in a Yojou-han episode are very often the best ones. We get to see the point at which Watashi snaps and turns back time, but the whole episode also comes together surprisingly clever. This episode even added to the previous episode (explaining that the 20000 leagues under sea novel and the globe actually were from Watashi and he thought that Ozu stole them).

The weirdest thing here was this future version of Watashi suddenly popping up. Was this just symbolism, or is this going to continue more often? In any case I must say that I was right in not expecting too much from the first few episodes of this, because after a few episodes that may not have been the most exciting I’m getting more and more excited about this series.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 13 May 2010 with categories: Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei

This series was already a bit surreal at times, but this episode took it even farther. The visual symbolism in this episode was just all over the place, and it loved pulling all kinds of weird visual references to events that were happening, the most obvious being the point at which Higuchi started singing.

It was a really weird episode, and probably the hardest one to understand so far due to all of the things that were thrown at us, ranging from the scavenger hunt for the weird brush to the rock-paper-scissors match at the end.

Watashi wasn’t exactly a loser here, as much as a devout follower of Higuchi and his weird ideas. Ozu this time was the bastard in the way that he was playing a bit of a double spy. They’re far less extreme than in the previous episodes, but I think that that’s because of Higuchi’s influence at work, who kept them at bay. Ozu could only be a small bastard, because for some reason it seemed impossible to really make Higuchi’s life bad.

I’m also very curious about the next episode. Wasn’t this series supposed to be just about four stories? Could that mean that we’re going to revisit the tennis club again in the next episode? Overall, the status quo in this series seems to be two deaths of Watashi, one life in hiding, and one life wasted on some weird guy.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 6 May 2010 with categories: Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei

This series really is why I love episodic series. The bad ones obviously suck beyond belief, but when shows like this one make optimal use of them they can really turn into something unique, and the short stories can allow for ideas that would normally not fit within a linear storyline. A lot of things have to be done right in order to get a good episodic series, though, but to me the key seems to be creativity, along with somehow finding a way to build-up: connecting the different episodes together. I believe that if these aren’t present, you’re just better off with a linear storyline in order to get the best out of your characters. But Yojou-han has both of them.

This seems to me a study of all types of losers. Watashi is socially inept throughout all the episodes, but every time it is in a different way. In the previous episodes he created his own problems by his pranks, but in this episode he just was another one of those losers who didn’t fit in because he had no athletic skills. Ozu instead of trying to get him into his pranks instead left him completely out of it for once. Interestingly though, I do believe that Watashi’s character has remained the same throughout the first three episodes: what we just see is him, reacting to different situations in a different way. That definitely is one interesting way of character-development. You can see his reckless parts in the way that he flew into his death at the end of this episode: it’s exactly those parts that we saw in episode two when he created that crazy video.

Whether Akashi and Ozu are the same… I’m not sure yet. This episode showed that Yojou-han is a show in which Watashi, Akashi and Ozu hop between different clubs, all three with their own agendas, while the rest remains constant. The actor of the previous episode still is an actor here. Akashi in this episode proves that she’s actually a very good cyclist. In this episode she loses her strap again, but there’s no promise scene. The cake is also gone. She’s a lot less cold than what she was in the first two episodes as well, it seems. As for Ozu, if he indeed also is the same character in every episode, then he strikes me as a guy who always grabs every opportunity to make someone’s life miserable, finding the right allies to accompany him. In this episode there probably already was some sort of bike-stealing club, which is why he didn’t really need Watashi. The second episode in contrast only needed him to show what a guy that actor really was: Watashi himself just did the rest.

Either way, I love the concept of this series: showing how the same people in different settings can be so different.
Rating: ** (Excellent)


Mail will not be published
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Monday, Nov 30. 2015 09:49 AM)
    I read the first volume of dimenion W, good art but so far this looks like it’ll be an action series you read if you’re only in need of a fix for one. I also read the first volume of that shounen comedy dagashi kashi, nothing really impressive but every so often it had a moment, most of it due to reaction faces/expressions.
  • Bam
    (Monday, Nov 30. 2015 07:40 AM)
    @Kaiser: yes unfortunately. It cost me a 6-pack of Corona to have my Mexican friend sit there and translate it cor me.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Monday, Nov 30. 2015 04:38 AM)
    @Bam: That berserk chapter isn’t in English its in Spanish =<
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Monday, Nov 30. 2015 04:07 AM)
    Kaiser marathons a re-watch of star wars, makes list of pros and cons:
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 29. 2015 09:50 PM)
    @Aidan: well interestingly in the pilot “what doth life?” causes a file not found error, so it fitted perfectly.
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Nov 29. 2015 04:24 PM)
    @Bam, Nope. Never seen Xavier.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 29. 2015 03:25 AM)
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 10:22 PM)
    @Aidan: it does seem like you’ve actually seen Xavier, in which case I’m impressed. Didn’t think you had it in you.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 09:35 PM)
    Speaking of errors, can anybody else open Evil Genius Scanlations page? I keep getting a gateway error. I know there should be a new Berserk on there but some force is keeping it from me. This is messed up.
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:38 PM)
    @Bam, Easy. 404 not found

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